Ballestas Islands, National Reserve and Penguins!
Paracas is a small coastal town, with a population of around 15 as far as I can tell, about 20 mins from Pisco of Pisco Sour fame.
There are two attractions of this dessert port town both in the Paracas National reserve first being the Ballestas islands, a collection of small islands about 40 mins off the mainland with an impressive aray of sea life, and the second being the mainland National Reserve, a dessert with some stunning beaches (arguably their is a third being the seafood served fresh off the boats, which is absolutely delicious!).
Our first outting was to the Ballestas Islands, this slightly touristy tour involves the population of the town quadroupling at 8am each morning with tourists arriving from as far a field as Lima (4 hrs) coming to see the second most popular sea life tourist destination in South America, any guesses on the first.......you got it Galapagos (in fact Ballestas is known as the poor mans Glapagos). We were hearded on to the boat to take us to for an hour tour arounds the islands.
After getting over the initial shock of this tourist trap we very much enjoyed the boat journey, on the way to the islands we passed the 2,000 year old Candelabra or Tridant carved in the cliffs by a geolyphic culture for which purpose no one seems sure, navigational aid, religous icon or the always plausable Alien landing strip are just some of the theories.
We travelled onwards to the islands which were alive with sea life, and plenty of bird droppings (the island was a bird dropping factory which was at one point Perus biggest export for use in fertalisers, in some places it is 50 feet thick) . Rosa is becoming luckier as she once again experience a bird poo landing, this time just a small one on the life facket, so luck from the last one must have rubbed off. We saw plenty of sea lions, Peruvian Boobies (birds to clarify), Pelicans, crabs and most importantly Humboldt Penguins (which I was most excited about), amongst other species of birds.
We followed this the next day by renting bikes and cycling the 15km through the deserts of the national reserve to Playa La Mina a stunning beach in the reserve. We passed through the reserve stopping to see the museum with some fossils dating back to 300 million years, along with taking a walk to see some flamingos from a far.
The cycle was tough, (hilly and sandy) we were the only ones as far as we can tell who took the cycle option, and as mini buses of confused looking tourists passed us we assured ourselves we had taken the more difficult but in all more satisfying option. We passed through the sandy roads and long hills but we rewarded ourselves with some fantastic sea food and of course some wonderful views which you can only get in a desert including red sand beaches and plenty of sand dunes. We returned somewhat tired and a tad sun burnt.